Verizon Enterprise Solutions launched a software-defined wireless local area network (SD-WLAN) managed service within its Virtual Network Services (VNS) portfolio.
The new SD-WLAN service manages both the corporate WiFi network as well as Bluetooth-enabled devices connected to the network. Verizon chose Mist Systems’ technology for the service that includes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities.
Viraj Parekh, director of product management and development at Verizon, said the carrier kicked off its VNS platform in 2015, and its first service was software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). VNS has since expanded with other services, including WAN optimization and security. In January, Verizon announced it had added a virtual session border controller (vSBC) to its VNS platform.
But now, Verizon wants to go deeper into the LAN to offer richer wireless services.
“WiFi has never been more critical,” said Parekh. “We needed more intelligence to understand what the actual user’s experience is. We came across Mist, which had a very unique value proposition that was very complementary to our VNS program.”
Mist is providing the hardware — WiFi/Bluetooth access points — as well as its cloud-based software.
Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing with Mist, said, “It’s the first AI-driven wireless LAN.”
Mists’ technology uses AI on the WiFi side to give visibility into the user’s experience. User and network data is analyzed in real time to identify network choke points and unauthorized user access attempts. It can scale network resources to meet demand. “It’s a completely different model for WiFi,” said Aaron.
But the AI capability is especially interesting on the Bluetooth side. “We have virtualized the Bluetooth experience,” said Aaron. He explained that typically Bluetooth works by placing battery-powered beacons at the customer’s location every 30 feet or so. If someone has a Bluetooth-connected phone in the proximity of one of these beacons, the two can talk. A retail app, for instance, could tell the customer about bargains in the vicinity.
But Aaron said, “The batteries in those beacons go dead, they don’t look very good, and they can get knocked down. We moved the beacon function to the access point: WiFi and Bluetooth together. We use software to create a virtual beacon.”
AI-driven Bluetooth technology opens up a world of customized applications for enterprises to offer their customers. “It’s about new location services using Bluetooth,” said Aaron. “When a customer is in retail store or hotel, it can check them in, give directions, share location with family.”
Verizon Enterprise Solutions customers can purchase the SD-WLAN service alone, the SD-WAN service alone, or bring them both together and set policies on the WAN and LAN in an integrated way.
“Our enterprise users are increasingly using wireless LANs, yet innovation around management of WLANs has not kept pace,” said Vickie Lonker, vice president of product management and development at Verizon, in a statement. “SD-WLAN leverages the advanced intelligence and machine learning offered through Mist Systems’ platform. It is the next step in our overall SDN strategy.”
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